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Want to keep your Dry January? A Salt Lake City dry bar might be the ticket

Dry January, Cupid Deluxe non-alcoholic cocktail, Jan. 13, 2013
Saige Miller
The Cupid Deluxe is a seasonal cocktail at Curiosity, Salt Lake City's only alcohol-free bar. It's made with high-end and homemade ingredients.

Since 2013, the hustle and bustle of the holidays has been followed by Dry January.

The challenge encourages individuals to abstain from alcohol for the entire month, which can be a struggle for some. Angelea Panos, director of the Substance Use Disorders Certificate Program at Utah Valley University, attributes some of the difficulty to peer pressure.

In her psychology class, Panos asked about 20 undergraduates not to drink when they went out with friends.

“I was really surprised at how they failed,” she said. “Their friends did not support them in staying sober for the night.”

Not a single student succeeded at remaining sober and that result spoke volumes about the impact peer pressure has on people.

Dry January, Erica Bruin and Reagen Plewe, Jan. 13, 2013
Saige Miller
Curiosity co-owners, Erica Bruin (left) and Reagen Plewe (right) stand in front of their selection of non-alcoholic spirits, wines and beers on Jan. 13, 2023. Curiosity is the only alcohol-free bar in Salt Lake City.

The strength of drinking culture isn’t lost on Reagen Plewe and Erica Bruin. They noticed Salt Lake City, in particular, didn’t have what they called a “third space” that was open late where people could enjoy the atmosphere of a bar but not have it revolve around alcohol.

So, they put their brains together and opened Curiosity, the only dry bar in Utah’s capital city.

“We just thought that there should be another place like this [Curiosity] so that you don't just end up drinking because that's the only option,” Plewe said.

Both love the craft of making drinks. At first glance, it’s hard to tell the difference between one of their non-alcoholic cocktails and a booze-infused one. Especially for people who are sober-curious (the inspiration behind the bar’s name), the atmosphere mimics a traditional bar.

Curiosity is quaint, funky and cozy. Music is constantly playing and the vibe is vibrant. One wall is filled with non-alcoholic spirits, wine and beer for people to purchase and take home. Another has vinyl records and games that inspire conversation. There’s a small bar area where bartenders make specialty cocktails with high-end and homemade ingredients.

“We wanted to … engage people's senses and get people in that type of curious state of being and kind of help people to realize that you can experience other states of consciousness and other types of connection without having to rely on different types of substances,” said Plewe.

Dry January, Curiosity dry bar Salt Lake City, Jan. 13, 2013
Saige Miller
The outside of Curiosity, Salt Lake City's only alcohol-free bar. They serve up 0-proof cocktails and sell non-alcoholic spirits, wines and beers.

Bruin started her journey of sobriety in 2021, and while she imbibes on occasion, she certainly takes note of how it felt to be free of alcohol. Her decision to stop, even for a brief period of time, she said, brought her an immense amount of mental and physical clarity.

“I just felt like it was incredible,” Bruin said. “Like, even for someone that isn't a daily drinker, if they just tried to quit drinking for like a month, the difference that they would feel is incredible.”

Panos said that’s a common revelation people have when they successfully go a period of time without drinking. She said people often sleep better, have more energy, lose a bit of weight, have clearer skin and strengthen their immune systems.

Panos added a short break from alcohol also allows people to not only reap the physical and mental benefits but gives them the opportunity for introspection.

“You could really analyze what your relationship with alcohol is once you give it up and you can't really have that level of awareness until you try that experiment,” she said.

Panos recommends those refraining from alcohol reflect and jot down “what you've noticed as a result of giving up alcohol” during the experiment.

Dry January, Curiosity dry bar interior Salt Lake City, Jan. 13, 2013
Saige Miller
The inside of Curiosity, Salt Lake City's only alcohol-free bar. They serve up 0-proof cocktails and sell non-alcoholic spirits, wines and beers.

Curiosity isn’t anti-drinking by any means. The owners don’t want their patrons to believe it’s an establishment only for sober folks.

“It’s a space where a range of people can exist and communicate and it doesn't have to be all or nothing,” Plewe said.

The bar opened last May, so this is their first Dry January as a business. Bruin has been pleasantly surprised by the turnout on the weekends and how fast their bottle shop sells out. It’s not something she expected to happen, especially when not drinking can be shed in a negative light.

“There's tons of energy in here and someone comes in that's doing Dry January and they don't know what to expect,” she said. “I feel like they're getting that bar vibe that they probably didn't anticipate getting.”

Saige is a politics reporter and co-host of KUER's State Street politics podcast
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